On 22 October 1997, I was nearly 100kg, smoking too much, eating too much and not exercising enough. That day, I started a very challenging Naval career progression course in Sydney. I made an appointment to see the base doctor and said to him that I wanted to quit smoking. He applauded my determination and gave me some nicotine patches to try. That afternoon, I went to the one building on the Naval base which I had not been in for the longest time, the gymnasium. That started a chain of events; by the end of that course and the course which followed, nine months had passed, I was 20kg lighter (I had to buy all new uniforms and clothes) and I was running up to 20km every couple of weeks and spending up to 3 hours every day in the gymnasium, lifting weights, running and swimming. I hadn’t had a cigarette and cut right back on drinking (alcohol and coffee).
I kept up with the fitness regime, in part, on and off for the next few years, some of the weight came back but I still hadn’t had a cigarette.
In 2006 I left the Navy and went to university to finish some studies I had started whilst serving. It was a 40 minute walk from home to the campus, if I walked hard I could do it in about 32 minutes. With my partner, Tracy, we decided we’d spend a few months each year on holiday abroad. Our first idea was to do some trekking and backpacking in India, so each day when I walked to university, I carried a backpack with my books; after a while I started adding more and more weight. After India, our next trip the next year was to South America, so again I started loading my backpack for my daily walk to university. After South America, our next trip was to trek the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal, so to train for this I started packing the backpack with concrete blocks, often carrying in excess of 40kg to and from university each day. By this time, when I had my swagger on, I could do the distance in 28 minutes whilst fully laden! But, I wasn’t doing much else to keep trim or fit.
In 2010, Tracy and I went to London. At the start of 2011, Tracy had picked up some work in outer London. Each day we took two tubes (trains); at the other end, she’d go into her office and I’d walk 12km home, doing some sightseeing on the way back into central London. One day it was raining, so I “ran” home (I was wearing jeans and a jumper). Drenched, puffed and chaffed I arrived at our apartment, changed and went out to buy some suitable sportswear; the next day on the tube Tracy was wearing a suit and I was in running gear. Each day I’d run the 12km from her office to home, detouring to see the sights of London along the way. We moved out of central London to be closer to Tracy’s work, so instead of running from the tube to home, I started running along the Thames tow paths, and gradually further afield. During this time, I became a barefoot runner.
Whilst in the UK, we had seen signs around the place for something called “parkrun” but didn’t do any more about it other than look at the signs and watch a few runners huffing around a local park. We came back home to Australia at the end of 2011, but I kept up with my own ad-hoc running program. Towards the end of 2012, I was bored of running around in Perth by myself so went online to find a local running group. I discovered that a parkrun had been set up in Claisebrook Cove, East Perth. On 22 September 2012, I completed my first free, timed, weekly 5km run.
The rest, as they say, is history.